The Matrix Reloaded
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
As Film Forum was being wrapped up this week, Christian film critics were just beginning to post their reviews of this weekend's surefire box office champion,
from Film Forum, 05/22/03
Whenever a highly anticipated action movie like The Matrix Reloaded arrives, most moviegoers have the same question on their minds: Is it as good as the hype?
But beyond that, discerning viewers have other questions on their minds: Is there more than just entertainment on the screen? Is there anything worthy of praise? Is the experience edifying or challenging? Does it offer us glimpses of truth or cleverly packaged lies?
Parents add even more questions to the mix: Is the movie safe for my kids? Should I let them sit with their friends, or should I be sitting next to them?
Kid-safe? Absolutely not. This is science fiction for grownups. And even discerning adults will have to filter carefully what they see and hear. As filmmakers, the Wachowski Brothers are too quick to indulge the baser appetites of the audience. The violence is harsh, excessive, and often completely unnecessary. A scene set in the city of Zion shows the masses preparing to face an advancing enemy by indulging in a dirty-dancing marathon (gee, you'd think they'd want to load their weapons, pray, or do some stretches). The scene is intercut by an unnecessary and explicit sex scene between the hero and heroine.
It is a shame. There are so many metaphors that ring true in the
Several religious press critics share similar sentiments. Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) writes, "It is amazing to watch the technological prowess of the filmmakers. It is just too bad that the Wachowski brothers choose to move the story sideways instead of forward. We learn nothing new about most of the old characters. Perhaps further revelations will come in the final sequel that will tie things together, but at the end of the second film, there are a number of unexplained loose ends that make for a frustrating viewing experience."
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) shares that frustration. The film delivers, in eye candy, he says, but it's not enough. "While the Wachowskis have made their world more complicated, they haven't made it more interesting. The sense of urgency, danger, or even plot relevance to the fight scenes is lacking."
He adds, "The movie undermines its own clumsy attempts to suggest that 'everything starts with choice' with plot-level revelations that, based on what we know from the first film, make even the most fundamentally human choices—even love itself—inescapably deterministic."
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "The film's glamorized violence—earning it a well-deserved R rating—overshadows an otherwise intriguing premise. And while the high-octane sequel leaves the eye-popping visuals of its predecessor in the dust—no mean feat—it breaks no new ground story-wise. While the filmmakers have crammed their film with clever Christian motifs and mythological allusions, the metaphysical mulligan stew serves to obfuscate the overstuffed and at times incoherent plot rather than affect any real philosophical musing."
Steven Isaac and Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) agree: "
Mike Parnell (Ethics Daily) says the film "roars on the screen like a juggernaut, with both the visual power to stun the senses and the philosophical underpinning to tantalize the intellect." But he too is bothered by "too much exposition [and] … all kinds of speeches … that make the movie drag at the beginning."
Rather than exploring the film's strengths and weaknesses, Steve Lansingh (The Film Forum) shares how the film gave him some insight into his own life. He finds Neo's dilemma—to save his endangered beloved or to save the threatened masses of Zion—to be a picture of his own struggle between the requirements of intimacy and the demands of following Christ's call to give up everything to serve others everywhere.
Brian Shipman (Relevant) focuses on the theme and its echoes of the gospel. He writes, "If
Ted Baehr (
Holly McClure (Crosswalk) says she "enjoyed this movie more than the first one." But she shares the prevalent concern about the film's potentially damaging effects on younger viewers. "It's up to parents to be discerning for their children—no matter how old they are. What might make a lasting impression is if parents see this movie with their mature teenagers and afterwards discuss the deeper meaning of this movie."
The Phantom Tollbooth offers no fewer than three critics' reviews of the film. Marie Asner says it doesn't go anywhere: "There is a fine line between action and dialogue, and this film crosses over into maxi-action and mini-words. Perhaps the last film,
Gareth Von Kallenbach calls it a misfire: "What I saw was a film that had some nice effects that quickly became boring as the setup … and the plot lacked cohesion."
But J. Robert Parks says the negative reports are overblown. "Is
from Film Forum, 05/29/03
Travis Carl (Christian Spotlight) joins the host of religious press critics Film Forum quoted last week who found the second
Carl writes, "For those who enjoyed the Christian symbolism of the first film, prepare to be disappointed. Though the spiritual parallels (such as free will versus predestination and the way materialism blinds us to reality) are revisited, this Messiah bears no resemblance to our own. He accomplishes all of his missions through brute force and seems swayed by any mystical wind blowing his way."from Film Forum, 06/05/03
The struggle to discern what
Peter T. Chattaway (Canadian Christianity) finds that the new film subverts the very messiah-story that led so many believers to celebrate the original. "
Jamey Bennett (RazorMouth) praises and defends the film. "
But Joel McDurmon (RazorMouth) criticizes the film on several counts. First, he argues that the plot offers chaos over coherence. But he's more upset that the film is "the latest cutting edge attempt to subsume Christian ideas under the umbrella of New Age thought …
In last week's Dick Staub Interview, Chris Seay, coauthor of
Frankly, I found the film more tedious that tantalizing. But I saw it a second time this week in order to get past the sensory overload of its excessive action sequences and concentrate on its philosophical riddles.
I hope I'm wrong. Where do you think the series is headed?from Film Forum, 06/26/03
Elsewhere, Charles Colson (Breakpoint) is talking about discernment at the movies. Commenting on
Dave Benoit (Relevant) talks about the failings of
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) presents a summation of the
And he concludes, "Viewed as a trilogy, the
More content from around ChristianityToday.com:
Film Forum: Talking About Revolutions | What religious critics are saying about The Matrix Revolutions... (November 6, 2003)
The Dick Staub Interview: Why We Are Drawn to
The Matrix| Chris Seay, coauthor of The Gospel Reloaded, says the first movie was about finding belief and the second looks at walking that path. (May 27, 2003)
Film Forum: Matrix Sequel Flaunts Flashy Effects, Tedious Talk | Christian film critics find little enthusiasm for The Matrix Reloaded, Down with Love, or Daddy Day Care, but they are impressed with Man on the Train. (May 22, 2003)
The Matrix Reloaded | Christianity Today Movies did not review this film, but here's what other critics are saying (May 15, 2003)
Liberated by Reality: The Matrix | Tony Jones (September 1999)
The Matrix Trilogy Bible-based Discussion Guide | What do these ground-breaking films say about the nature of self-knowledge, faith, love, reality, free will, and destiny? For personal use or as a group series, download this Reel-to-Real study to look deeper at these challenging moral and philosophical questions.